A world market leader in producing upgrade precision components to remote control model helicopter enthusiasts around the world says using Alphacam beats the competition to get products on the market first.
And according to Quick UK, that means most companies don’t even bother trying to compete.
Quick managing director Budd Boulton (pictured right) says machining their parts through the Alphacam integrated CAD/CAM software enables them to react very quickly when a new model helicopter comes on to the market. “We buy one of the very first, and before it has even been seen in the trade magazines Alphacam gives us the ability to produce a range of upgrade components for it.”
He says Alphacam – part of the Planit Group – is of the utmost importance to them, and is key to their success in getting to market first with a new product. “Thanks to Alphacam we’re at the top of our tree.”
The company was founded in 1982 manufacturing the UK’s first commercially available radio controlled model helicopter kits from aluminium, steel and carbon fibre. They enjoyed 15 years of growth until the onset of cheap, plastic helicopters from China. “Our models were high precision, but cost around £1,000, compared to about £200 for the Chinese models. We decided to specialise in producing high precision upgrade components for the plastic helicopters, reverse engineering them to give them much better performance.”
Budd Boulton says the drawback with the standard plastic components on the cheap helicopters is that there is too much flex in the control system. “If you have a 90 degree bell crank that’s transferring a load from the servo motor to the rotor head, you can be putting five to ten kilos of torque through it. Plastic ones tend to flex, so the way the helicopter flies can be improved considerably by making those components more rigid.”
Quick UK’s range of around 300 aluminium and carbon fibre components effectively brings much greater precision to the way the helicopters fly. They also bring more longevity, particularly in the transmission systems, and therefore more overall reliability. “Most components on a helicopter are mission critical, in that if any one of them fails the helicopter could crash. By using Alphacam, we’ve built a reputation for quality components, and people come to us to upgrade their models as a matter of course. As with any hobby, enthusiasts continue to develop it by spending £10, £20 or £30 a month on upgrading components to make their helicopter fly better.”
Although there are around one million model helicopters around the world at any one time, Quick UK is the only UK company doing what it does, and one of only a handful globally.
Operating from 2,500 square foot premises in Pewsey, Wiltshire, with just five employees, Quick manufactures its components on five CNC machining centres, all driven by Alphacam. Two are vertical Dugards, one with a 1,000 mm bed and one with a 600 mm bed, and three Austrian Emco multi axis turning centres with driven tooling and Y axis turrets that are used for the more complex components.
As Quick only has two operators, Budd Boulton says it is important that Alphacam can drive all their machines. “Using only one piece of software means the operators have become very proficient with it, and we don’t have to swap software between different machines. This is particularly valuable on the milling machines because many of our components are very small. Typically, we may machine around 400 at a time, and the pocketing feature on Alphacam gives us the ability to effectively produce the machine code for one, and then we populate the whole sheet with multiple items, which is obviously very much quicker for us.”
“On the turning centres we have three machines with very similar capabilities, and it is so convenient being able to choose any one to a do a production run. It means we don’t have just one machine that produces a particular component. We can very quickly put it on to any one of the three, so we can usually keep all three machines running with very little downtime.”
The speed with which Alphacam produces programs is also important. “Generally we can take a new component from the design stage to producing the prototype within 24 hours, and if all’s well with it, it goes into production immediately, which is absolutely vital, as is generating the toolpath offline.” He says it means they can see any snags and correct any issues before spending time on the machine.
“What we do and how we’ve been successful is ultimately as a result of selecting Alphacam. I looked at many systems before selecting it, but I made the best choice, and if I had my time over again I would select Alphacam again.”
Alphacam is used in the manufacture of many types of components, from simple routed parts to complex, 5-axis components. The emphasis behind the development of Alphacam is to provide customers with productivity, reliability, and flexibility. Improving these attributes in any company will help increase profitability – and Quick UK is a perfect example of that.